Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres – as I frequently approach history through literature. So it was with excitement that I opened Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie. I knew next to nothing about the backdrop to the novel, the Biafra war. I definitely didn’t know that it was Igbo-based. However, understanding my lack of knowledge, I took what Ama Ata Aidoo wrote in Our Sister Killjoy to be true; that Nigeria “not only has all the characteristics which nearly every African country has but also possesses these characteristics in bolder outline”.
I have to admit I was a bit thrown for a loop when the Biafran characters would talk about Nigeria and Nigerians as The Other. Then I remembered a discussion I had with someone about Watch for Me on the Mountain by Forrest Carter. In that book, a fictional rendering of Geronimo’s life, Mexicans were consistently referred to in the negative. I didn’t get that either until I was made to understand that Mexico, as a country, was imposed on Indigenous people from without. Once I understood that, the negative perception of Mexico made a whole lot of sense. It was the same with Nigerian and Nigerians. I have to admit, though, to a little discomfort in understanding (and potentially agreeing with) the Biafran struggle for Independence from Nigeria. After all, one of the giants of African Independence, Kwame Nkrumah, believed strongly in a United States of Africa. Half of a Yellow sun raised questions such as should such a structure be based on the 1885 carving up of Africa?
Originally, I had planned to write an intricate review. However, I must admit, that reading the book soon became a chore. It wasn’t due to book being well over 500 pages. Even though the story was very interesting, the writing itself was unable to hold my interest for a sustained amount of time. Considering all the publicity Adichie has received, I expected a literary masterpiece.Now, don’t get me wrong. It is definitely worth reading; especially for folks like me who look at literature as more than just a good story. It just dragged at several points during the read.